Dr. Phillips High School: Class of 2022 — The comeback kids | West Orange Times & Observer

By Vanessa Brandt and Holly Whitty

While we were standing in line eagerly awaiting to purchase our prom tickets, we might not have realized how lucky we were to have this event. A year ago, students had just received the news that there would be no prom for the Class of 2021. There was also no Film Fest and no student cheering section at football games. However, with the optimism outlook that COVID will soon be behind us, the senior Class of 2022 could finally enjoy the year we have been looking forward to since 2018.

Even before the COVID pandemic, the Class of 2022 experienced changes in our academic and social lives. From the time we were in elementary school through our last weeks as seniors, one constant factor has been change. We were one of the first groups of kids to be introduced to iPads in elementary school and laptops in middle school. We grew up in a digital world, honing our social media skills and connecting in a way unique to our generation.

We have grown up with the same TV shows, movies and trends. In elementary school, we all had our favorite Disney Channel shows and online Cool Math Games that took over our childhoods. By middle school, we were consumed by microtrends such as fidget spinners and the wave of social media, as many of us had gotten our first smartphones around this time. With an upbringing of technology and unlimited information, we have taken our knowledge and transformed it, making it our own. Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok encouraged us to explore our creative side and have fun participating in trends that fostered a connection — even when we couldn’t see each other in person. We discovered hidden talents for art, music and other passions that we might not have had the opportunity to explore before.

How has growing up in a digital setting affected us? We learned more about one another. We grew to understand our differences and how to overcome them. Inclusion and diversity became a big part of our class’ personality. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most “racially and ethnically diverse” and “most-educated” generation compared to any other. In tandem with being open and inclusive with our classmates, we also learned more about our mental health. Our class was one of the first to receive mental health sessions as part of a school-mandated curriculum.

All these new concepts paved the way for us to succeed in great capacity and get the most out of our school year. At DP, we are No. 2 in the county for Super Scholars (those accepted in the top 20 colleges and universities in the nation), with 16 seniors earning this title.

With COVID nearly in the rearview mirror, we could take advantage of an in-person learning experience and the much-anticipated senior rites of passage such as Homecoming, spirit week, and prom that previous classes missed. Athletic games were once again filled with cheering students, resulting in more state championship victories in our favorite sports such as basketball, flag football and girls wrestling.

We learned to appreciate these things because we realized that they were not guaranteed. The bonds we formed this year are more meaningful because of our previous isolation. It was not an easy journey. Virtual learning introduced a new challenge of trying to find community service opportunities since everything was shut down. While we were at home, we lost the sense of school spirit, academic drive and student involvement. Even though it was a struggle, student clubs and organizations such as SGA showed initiative by encouraging member participation once we were back in person. Now, we are nearly full-functioning and back in our element.

As a class, we are constantly learning to look at things with a fresh perspective. This stems from our unexpected couple of years in quarantine, where we were limited in what we could do. But this is where we learned to adapt to our situation and create new ways to stay connected.

In summary, the thing that makes our Class of 2022 unique is our versatility. Instead of accepting defeat, we took our high school experience as a challenge and were able to bounce back from isolation to reconnection.

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